Go to the Head of the Class

Master these Social Security lessons to get a more realistic view of your retirement.

 According to Nationwide’s 8th Annual Social Security Consumer Survey, more than half of Americans express confidence that they know exactly how to optimize their Social Security benefits. However, only 6% actually understand all the factors that determine the maximum benefit someone can receive. In addition, the report highlighted additional knowledge gaps:

  •  A full 39% don’t know at what age they are eligible to receive their full benefits.
  • Just over half (51%) do not have a clear understanding of how much they will receive in future income.
  • Over a third (37%) incorrectly assume that Social Security benefits are not protected against inflation.
  • Nearly half (45%) mistakenly believe if they claim their benefits early, their benefits will go up automatically when they reach full retirement age.

By mastering these lessons, you’ll immediately go to the head of the class for retirement planning—and avoid being an unfortunate statistic in some company’s future survey!

Lesson #1

Your “full retirement age” for Social Security benefits is the age at which you may first become entitled to full or unreduced retirement benefits. 

Additionally, you can refer to this past blog, where we break down when to begin taking social security.

Match your birth year to the full retirement ages shown below. Now, kindly memorize it!

Birth Year






1960 & Beyond

Full Retirement Age

66 + 2 Months

66 + 4 Months

66 + 6 Months

66 + 8 Months

66 + 10 Months


Lesson #2

Social Security will only replace a portion of your preretirement income. 

The rule of thumb is that you’ll need to replace about 75%–80% of your preretirement income. Social Security will help fund part of your income needs, generally somewhere between 25-40% (depending on your earnings history). Your personal savings and retirement account will have to make up the difference.

Lesson #3

The longer you wait until you start taking your Social Security benefits, the more money you’ll receive.

Age 62 is the minimum age at which you can choose to begin receiving Social Security benefits. However, the math is pretty black and white: claiming earlier gives you a reduced benefit and claiming later gives you an increased benefit. For each year you postpone taking your benefit (until age 70), your monthly check will be larger.

Check out the Social Security Benefits Planner for more comprehensive information, including calculators and other resources. 

Lesson #4

Social Security benefits are somewhat protected against inflation. 

In planning for your retirement income, it’s important to note that any cost-of-living adjustment from the Social Security Administration can vary each year and is not guaranteed. Cost-of-living adjustments are typically announced in October of each year. For example, as of 2022, the cost-of-living adjustment is 5.6%, effecting approximately 70 million Americans. 


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